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The Loft on UCSD campus is the last place you would expect to find traditional country music in San Diego. Regardless, this was the setting for some honky-tonking, courtesy of Joe Pug and Justin Townes Earle.

Pug, a songsmith in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, John Prine, and Bob Dylan, started things off with a scorching set. Armed with only a guitar, he captivated the audience with his passionate, introspective, and lyrically inspired songs. While touring in support of his first album, Messenger, to hear him live you would think he had been doing this for decades.

Earle provided a more upbeat set. Taking the stage with a bearded fiddler and a female doghouse bass player, the trio blasted through almost two hours of unapologetic old-school country music. Between songs, the lanky Earle, suited up with a bowtie and thick-framed glasses, kept the audience laughing. The onstage banter between the band and Earle only added to the vintage mood of the performance.

Highpoints of the set included the poignant "Mama's Eyes" and a cover of the Buck Owens classic "Close Down The Honky Tonks." Recently featured in GQ magazine as one of the best-dressed men of 2009 (which was joked about onstage), Earle's music is anything but trendy.

  • Concert: Justin Townes Earle/Joe Pug
  • Show date: February 9
  • Venue: The Loft at UCSD
  • Seats: General Admission
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